Cover Inspiring: 5 women helming companies & internet platforms, from construction to finance

Founded by women, these e-commerce platforms and small businesses are filling market gaps and providing valuable resources in finance, construction, insurance and more

Pennie Lim of HOMA2U

Founded by Malaysian Pennie Lim in 2018, HOMA2U is touted as Malaysia's first full-fledged overstock marketplace for building materials and interior design finishes. An offline-to-online (O2O) marketplace, HOMA connects homeowners and renovation project owners with unused, surplus building materials from construction sites and distributors at affordable prices—and thus reducing wastage and streamlining the traditionally analog renovation process for homeowners today.  

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Penny Choong of MoneyPenny

Coming from an IT and finance background, auditor, entrepreneur and finance specialist Penny Choong was forced to see the inherent fragility of the global economy when the 2008 financial crisis hit. After graduating from university, she entered her first job with the added pressure of having to set aside money to support her younger brothers' tertiary education.

Little by little, she began to look for opportunities to earn extra income, gaining invaluable experience about finance and wealth management. Choong soon started teaching kids financial literacy under the licensed programme from MoneyTree, and realised she had a gift for explaining financial concepts in more easily understood ways. She eventually founded MoneyPenny in an effort to help teach people financial literacy and better ways to manage their finances. 

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Winnie Chua of PolicyStreet

Named among Forbes 30 under 30 in Malaysia in 2018, actuarial and strategy specialist Winnie Chua co-founded PolicyStreet with three other partners. Approved by the Central Bank of Malaysia, PolicyStreet is an online insurance platform that aims to "democratise insurance by making it simple, easy and affordable".

It helps customers find the best insurers for their needs and budget, view price comparisons, make online payments and more through one platform. In 2019, Chua was shortlisted to be a 2020 ambassador for She Loves Tech, one of the world's largest startup competitions for women in technology.   

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Ida Thien of Closing The Gap

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Ida Thien (Photo: Closing The Gap)
Above Ida Thien (Photo: Closing The Gap)

Teach for Malaysia alumni Ida Thien co-founded Closing The Gap together with Connie Foong, Cheah Kok Hin and Brian Geh. Closing The Gap is a non-profit initiative that helps bright, under-represented students get access to higher education opportunities through scholarship resources, mentoring programmes, university residential camps and most recently, virtual programmes. Incredibly, the organisation's first three cohorts gained access to approximately RM4.5million in scholarships.  

It all started when the founding team encountered a bright young school leaver who was unable to afford tertiary education despite his academic brilliance. With some timely intervention and help from the team, the student was eventually awarded a full scholarship and graduated from university with a finance and accounting degree.     

More: Outstanding Malaysians Who Are Making A Difference In Education

Stephanie Chai of Luxe Nomad

Former model, actress and TV host Stephanie Chai was born in New Zealand but grew up in East Malaysia. She founded The Luxe Nomad, a premier boutique travel startup that soon grew from a three-person team to become one of Asia Pacific's foremost luxury villa booking portals and management platforms.

Before The Luxe Nomad, Chai also spent two years running a business listings website, Weddings Guide Asia. In 2018, Chai was named Young Entrepreneur Of The Year by the Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Awards.

Despite the significant challenges to the travel industry in 2020 due to the pandemic, The Luxe Nomad has seen an uptick in domestic travel and bookings in countries where Covid-19 cases are on the downtrend. 

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